The savage beast, c'est moi

photo: Damon WInter  NYT

photo: Damon WInter NYT

It is not as easy to drive here as it used to be. There are a great many more obstacles, some of them stationary: construction sites!  So, so many construction sites; road work (which sometimes is something else, like, say, sewer work, that nevertheless requires the road be reduced to rubble for months at a time); road narrowing, which is kind of like road work only it is permanent and much stupider (why did they decide Castro should be one lane instead of two?  It is a double-parking impassable catastrophe) and some [editors's note: 1. there is no editor. 2. we have found ourselves in a quagmire of bad punctuation, for which the staff humbly apologizes] all too mobile: ten million Ubers and Lyfts, the most distracted and unpredictable of all city drivers; miscellaneous jay walkers; buses, Google and otherwise; cyclists; and [expletive frickety-fracking expletive] skateboarders who mistakenly believe that standing on a plank of wood grants them immortality.

Deep breath.

I am probably not a masterful driver. I err on the side of caution.  In fact, this will very likely be my epitaph.

She erred on the side of caution

Nevertheless, the moment I get into my car, I am assured that I am the only one in the whole of the metropolis who is exhibiting any sense whatsoever. Resultingly, I am filled with rage almost instantly. It is not "road rage" in the typical sense where I am sideswiping Priuses or spewing vitriol out the window. I keep the windows closed and just marinate in the vitriol instead. For me, urban driving is defined by a simmering fury complete with below-the-window-line obscene gestures and accompanied by a snide monologue that I wouldn't want an impressionable child to hear. Fortunately for everyone, my commute is so short as to hardly warrant the name.

Typically, on my way home. I listen to NPR. In the 5:00 hour, there is some programming about diverse topics of potential interest, but there are also repeated reports of the day's news. Or, to put it another way, a tally of who has most recently been murdered while going to school, a concert, the market, the mosque, vacation, a holiday party, being Black, etc.

Recently, I changed the station.

I do not typically listen to nor am I the least bit educated about classical music. Nevertheless, when I tuned into Classical KDFC, calm filled the rage mobile. It felt like a storybook enchantment. My breathing slowed. My grip loosened. My shoulders descended. Even the monologue tapered off. The DJs at the classical station speak in soothing tones; they offer no news updates. The station is member-supported, so no reverie is interrupted by five minutes of bellowing Christmas capitalism. What's more, those fine radio professionals know what's going on at that hour of the day, so they keep the rousing marches to a minimum. Let us be calm and civilized, they say. Here is some Chopin.

I was telling a friend about this life-changing discovery.  "Right at 5:00," I told her, "they play something especially meditative.  I think they call it the 'musical oasis.' It's great."

I was close.  I laughed when I heard the actual name.

Island of Sanity.

Join me, fellow travelers. It's a spacious island. There's room for all of us. Even you, skateboarders, even you.